Shimano has added a small selection of 12-speed components to its STEPS e-bike system, updated firmware to allow riders to control their power units via the buttons on Di2 shifters, and added a couple of other interesting options to its range.
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12-speed you say?
Don’t get too excited, this isn’t a new groupset, but rather a range of STEPS-specific chainrings. These include 34t, 36t and 38t MTB options, plus a 42t aimed at “e-trekking” bikes, i.e. electric hybrids.
Shimano has yet to trickle 12-speed down from XTR level or offer it on the road so, for the time being, there probably isn’t going to be massive demand for 12-speed e-bike bits.
All that changes of course if more affordable 12-speed groupsets are announced down the line.
In the meantime, the new parts are available from May.
As an aside, a new 160mm crank option for STEPS will hit the market in April, a boon for shorter riders and those seeking extra ground clearance.
STEPS now integrates with Di2
Shimano has updated its STEPS firmware to allow riders of e-road bikes with Ultegra Di2 R8070 levers to toggle between power modes using the buttons on their shifters.
One of the cool things about the latest Di2 kit is that you can assign functions to the buttons as you please using Shimano’s E-Tube software. With STEPS integrated into the system as well, riders won’t have to take their hands off the shifters to change the level of assist.
This update is compatible with E8000, E7000, E6100 and E5000 STEPS drive units, both downtube and integrated batteries, and with E6100 and E7000 displays. It will be available from next week.
Charge your e-bike on the go
Most e-bikes come with large mains chargers which are designed to stay at home. Shimano has announced a new 4A compact charger that you could conceivably take with you in your backpack.
The EC-E8004 weighs a claimed 450g and measures 155x75x40mm. While that’s only 73g less than the existing EC-E6002, the new charger is claimed to be 2.5x faster, taking a 504Wh battery from empty to 80 percent charged in 2.5 hrs.
A full charge will take around 4.5 hours, a similar figure to that of the current, much heavier EC-E6000.
It remains to be seen how many riders will want to take a charger with them, but it could make e-bike touring — a huge segment of the market, particularly in continental Europe — much more practical, or let you give your battery a useful top-up over a leisurely lunch in the middle of a big day’s riding.
The EC-E8004 will be available in September.
2019: the year of the e-bike?
E-bikes remain a somewhat polarising topic but announcements like this are yet more evidence that the bike industry is all in with the genre. How do you feel about Shimano’s latest offerings, and what would you like to see the brand do next?